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By Nikhil Aziz
March 22nd, 2011
Rivers are sacred in many cultures and central to the World’s early civilizations, from Mesopotamia and Egypt to India and China. Perhaps this was on his mind when Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, famously (if ironically) called mega dams the “temples of modern India.” He would have been more prescient in calling them “temples of doom” given the enormous human, environmental and economic costs of these behemoths. In India alone, since independence, by some estimates nearly 50 million people have been displaced.
According to Grassroots International ally Fahamu, “Agriculture… remains the main source of income of a rural population generally estimated at 70% of the total population… [W]omen remain an essential link in agricultural production, accounting for 70% of food production, managing nearly 100% of processing activities, responsible for about 50% of the maintenance of the family herds and also responsible for some 60% of sales activities in the markets.” Any solutions to the problems of African agriculture, therefore, must include women. In fact, African women are saying, “We Are the Solution.”
It is the tradition at World Social Forums (WSF) to focus a considerable amount of time, energy, resources and attention on issues faced by people in the host region and country. The 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal that I had the privilege of attending was no different. Africa and African issues suffused the WSF throughout the forum.
One of these issues was the massive land grabs that are taking place all across the continent. Appropriately called the New Scramble for Africa, it is eerily similar to the mad rush by European colonial powers during the last quarter of the 19th century to divide Africa up among them.
“¡La Tierra No Se Vende – Se Ama y Se Defiende!” (English translation: “The Land is Not for Sale – It must be Loved and Defended!”)
– A change from woman fighting against a large dam in Alpuyeca, Mexico
By Cloc/The Via Campesina
(Cancún, 5 December 2010) One idea dominated the opening and first working day of the global forum “For Life, Environmental and Social Justice”, organized by La Via Campesina and its allies at their camp in Cancún: we must foil the carbon markets and the REDD programme which governments intend to legitimize at COP16.
by Sara Mersha
In the northeast of Brazil, the landscape changes from dry, spiny vegetation to humid, verdant scenery dominated by sugar cane plantations. Driving through villages inhabited mostly by sugar-cane cutters is like winding through a slum in a big city. Barefoot children sell candy beneath the traffic lights, Coca-Cola signs light up bars and open-air sewage gives an indication of the pervasive poverty.
In the middle of a “green desert” of sugar cane (grown mostly for export), from the road I saw two adults and a young boy working in what appeared to be a tiny oasis teeming with lush fresh vegetables that shined from afar.
The Via Campesina – a Grassroots International partner – is organizing a long march in Mexico for life and environmental justice, prior to the United Nations conference on Climate Change in Cancun. Led by indigenous and peasant families, the caravans will depart from different locations and converge in Mexico City's Zocalo for a mass demonstration on November 30. Along the way, participants will visit communities affected by environmental disasters, such as those caused by the San Javier mining site in the state of San Luis de Potosí and El Zapotillo Dam in Jalisco.
The below press release from Grassroots International's ally the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) discusses some of the events that were held on Indigenous Peoples' Day. IEN is a network of indigenous peoples who focus on creating sustainable livelihoods, demanding environmental justice, and maintaining indigenous traditions.
As part of a larger campaign to support the right to land, this week Grassroots International provided a $10,000 grant to boost education and organizing around a powerful national referendum in Brazil. The referendum, being organized by social movements for the first week of September, probes public opinion regarding the size of land holdings.
Although non-binding, the referendum provides an opportunity for land rights activists to educate voters about the growing problem of landlessness in the countryside caused by the expansion of agribusinesses in peasant and indigenous communities.